Shania Twain felt the need on her new album to empower herself the same way she has uplifted listeners with hits like “Man! I Feel Like a Woman” and “She’s Not Just a Pretty Face.”
So she set aside all feelings of self consciousness — appearing braless for the album’s artwork and letting listeners unabashedly hear her surgically repaired voice — on “Queen of Me.” Throughout the album’s 12-tracks, the 57-year-old country pop superstar confronts her physical vulnerabilities with authority in ways meant to uplift fans, and herself.
Twain’s sixth studio album is her first since having open-throat surgery in 2018 to strengthen her vocal muscles after a long battle with Lyme disease. During the pandemic, the singer said she went into her “writing cave” at home to hone her songwriting skills and penned three albums worth of music with a clear understanding that her powerful vocals might not last forever.
In a recent interview with The Associated Press, Twain spoke candidly about the album, which is out Friday, regaining her confidence, singing during throat surgery and preparing for her global upcoming tour, which kicks off April 28.
Remarks have been edited for clarity and brevity.
AP: How do you define your new album, “Queen of Me”?
TWAIN: Self empowerment is about managing your mindset. Controlling your own mood. Your frame of mind. It just turned into “Queen of Me.” I’m my own boss. I’m the boss of me. I have to tell myself how to think. What to think. It became the theme of the whole album. It ended up representing that uplifting mode of myself.
AP: Before I listened to your album, I was expecting ballads. But it’s a more upbeat experience. What made you choose that route?
TWAIN: It was all happening in a mode of lifting my own spirit up. I wanted music that was going to make me want to dance. Even some of the songs that are a little more, for example, “Brand New Me” or “Pretty Liar.” Those are songs that would have maybe stayed more in the melancholy vibe more ballady. But because I was really relying on my songwriting during that time to make me feel a positive energy, everything pretty much turned into this more poppy, dancey, beat-driven, upbeat-driven sounding album.”
AP: You seem liberated on your album cover. Was that your intent?
TWAIN: That was the entire intention. You know, throw away the bra. I did a lot of nude photography in that session. That’s obviously a partial nude. I wanted to be on a horse. One of the places I feel most liberated is riding a horse. You can fly. It’s very empowering. It’s like you take this unbridled posture to bridle your freedom. It’s like facing a fear, facing something that’s uncomfortable, getting myself out of my comfort zone — especially on a horse. That’s freedom.
AP: I heard you sang during surgery. Is that true?
TWAIN: Yes, I had to be awake, so that I could sing and speak. It was horrible. I’m not going to lie. But there was no way around it. It was the only way. The decision to do the surgery was quick for me, but the recovery was quite long and very very painful. They literally had to stretch the larynx, move everything over and put these crutches in there. You’re singing and you speak, so they understand that you have symmetrical closure — which I didn’t have before.
AP: What’s been your thoughts after the surgery?
TWAIN: I may not have it forever. Just with age, the effect of it just might not stand up. So I’ve got to take advantage of it now, enjoy it, get out on the stage, make more records, because I’m not sure I would go through it again.
AP: I’m sure that’s tough to hear. Do you think about when your voice might go again?
TWAIN: I don’t think about it. I don’t worry about it. I focus on how to manage my voice the way it is now. For example, before the surgery, it was like a two-hour warmup and so much physical therapy. I just couldn’t sustain it. That’s why I decided to have the surgery. The surgery has reduced all of that to about 20 minutes, which is very normal. That’s ideal. But if I’m not singing for even a week or maybe two weeks, it takes me two to three days to get that voice going again. It’s more work than I had to do before, but it’s worth it.
AP: What was the first sign of your singing confidence?
TWAIN: The true confidence was three weeks after the surgery. I made a sound and there was resonance. Instant resonance. I’m like, “Oh, my God. I feel it. I feel it working.” It was a small window, but that kind of put the fire under my butt, too, and I said, “All right, no more excuses.” You’ve got this and you’ve got the best technology available. Top notch surgeon. All the physiotherapy education you need. Get out there and do it.
AP: With your retooled vocals, how are you mentally getting ready for your tour?
TWAIN: When I now go out on that stage, I am not afraid of the criticism. I’m not going to be perfect. My voice is not what it used to be. I sing differently. There’ll be holes in it. I’m not the same body I used to be. All these things. But I go out there with the confidence that I’m the best I can be and that I’ve worked hard to be my best. I just am not afraid of the criticism. I’m there for the people that are embracing me for who I am. I will get out there and do my best to make everybody happy, as I always do.
—Jonathan Landrum Jr., The Associated Press